How to discuss risks with decision makers

How to discuss risks with decision makers

When talking about the risks in a recent Board paper with a Chief Technology Officer for a national retailer, he said something very interesting.

The risks section SHOULD make us feel uncomfortable.

If it does, then we are not only being honest but can be confident that the leadership will trust us.

His view was firmly that if we are ‘gilding the lilly' by only including the positives, then they won’t trust us and neither they should.

He said if we did that we would also let ourselves down.

We would not be demonstrating that we have thought deeply about our recommendation and how we will counter the inevitable risks we will face in delivering on our commitments within it.

If we are honest and highlight the things that are keeping us up at night and can demonstrate how well we have thought them through they will trust us more.

It will also lead to a much more robust discussion with the leaders and lead to a better outcome for the business.

Look at Mary’s example regarding the risks associated with her new talent strategy. It highlights the shift toward a powerful acknowledgement of the risks versus a ‘tick a box’ list of items to be covered.

Old version asserting that ‘all is well’ was also quite process oriented –

We will review the impact and risk associated with implementing the strategy through the agile Quarterly Business Review process.

  1. We are clear on the risks associated with this strategy and have plans to address
  2. We will track outcomes through the agile QBR process

New version with a stronger list of risks to be managed focused properly on the risks themselves while also having a clear point of view –

We have mitigations in place to minimise the risks and ensure our strategy delivers full long-term value

  1. Cementing SLT approval for FY21 and FY22 budget of $X m
  2. Working with leaders to ensure they don’t refuse to move top talent or hold onto sub part talent
  3. Investing in chapter leads so they can drive talent development within chapters

The difference is quite stark, isn't it?

I hope that helps.

Kind regards,
Davina

PS – Will I see you at this week's working sessions? We have some terrific documents to work through. Got to Session Registration on the top menu to register.

How to avoid ‘slippage’ in our introductions

How to avoid ‘slippage’ in our introductions

Last week's email focused on a common challenge with introductions: how to avoid drowning your audience in ‘background'.

This week I'd like to continue this theme by drawing on some insights from this week's Intensive Workshop.

Here was the group's big takeaway: It is easy to allow our content to ‘slip' into the wrong part of your storyline which muddles your message.

Here are two suggestions to help you avoid falling into the slippage trap.

  1. Watch that your ‘so what' doesn't slip into your trigger to surprise your audience with too much too soon
  2. Watch that your context doesn't slip into your trigger so you avoid explaining why you are communicating

Here is some more detail on each as well as a before and after example to illustrate.

Tip #1 – Watch that your ‘so what' doesn't slip into your trigger to surprise your audience with too much too soon.

Ask yourself whether the trigger you are using describes why you are communicating with this audience right now and whether it includes new and unexpected information.

Here's an example where the trigger is actually the ‘so what'.

Context – We are in a phase of the pandemic where the war on talent, the great resignation, the organisational disconnect resulting from 1 1/2 years of social isolation are putting us at risk of losing key business services talent.

Trigger – We need to engage, connect and invest in our talent.

Question – How do we engage, connect and invest in developing our talent?

So what – Organize a virtual business services summit.

As you can see, even though this leads to the intended ‘so what', it gives too much away too early. In this case, the audience were quite challenging and not convinced that ‘engaging, connecting and investing in talent' was the solution.

An alternative would be as follows:

Context – We are in a phase of the pandemic where the war on talent, the great resignation, the organisational disconnect resulting from 1 1/2 years of social isolation are putting us at risk of losing key business services talent.

Trigger – We need to focus our efforts on retaining key talent before it's too late.

Question – How do we do that?

So what – Organize a virtual business services summit to identify ways to engage, connect and invest in our high priority team members to keep them.

Tip #2 – Watch that your context doesn't slip into your trigger so you avoid explaining why you are communicating.

Remember that the trigger for doing something is not the same as the trigger for communicating.

Here's an example of where part of the context was written into the trigger:

Context – We've been asked to submit a proposal for stakeholder consultation and website review services.

Trigger – This is a competitive tender which will be assessed against 4 criteria.

Question – How can we show that we are the best providers for delivering on the project outcomes?

So What – What examples of our work can you provide that demonstrate that we are the best provider of these services?

Here's an alternative:

Context – We've been asked to submit a proposal for stakeholder consultation and website review services. This tender is competitive.

Trigger – I need your help to prepare the tender.

Question – How can I help?

Answer – Please provide examples of our recent work that help us demonstrate that we meet the following four criteria.

I hope that helps.

Have a great week,
Davina

PS – Momentum Folk – remember to register for this week's coming session.

The importance of asking ‘Why?’

In this session, we worked on Brooke's email which highlighted the importance of asking ‘why'.

Why might audiences be objecting (are they unwilling or unable?)

Why do you need to communicate? What is it you need them to know?

Once you have nailed down the ‘why', the storyline becomes so much clearer.

As always, we've included the notes below so you can see how we work through the storyline planner from the initial brainstorming through to the first draft of the email.

Hacking requirements for a job application

How do you handle being provided with 7 criteria that must be addressed in a cover letter when you want to offer a tight message highlighting your strengths?

In this short session, we showcased a strategy for ‘hacking’ requirements on a job application letter. This strategy allows you to give the potential employer what they want while making sure you also get to feature the skills and experience you wish to.

Including your storylining and communication skills, of course!

UPDATE: A few weeks later, we had the chance to work through the cover letter Andrew created as a result of our first session. I've included the recording below as it is a useful example of how to finesse the final product.

How to avoid being diverted by the back story so you can focus on the today story

How to avoid being diverted by the back story so you can focus on the today story

Has this happened to you?

You have an important presentation to make to a senior leadership group and a big chunk of the time is spent talking about ‘background’.

The leaders ask every question under the sun about the history of the program, what you have done in the past and you find yourself repeating your last five presentations. You use precious face time with them looking backwards rather than looking forwards.

This was a hot topic in today’s coaching session with the Senior People Leader at an Australian retailer.

Let’s look at what was going on before looking at a sanitised version of the before and after.

Here's what was going on : ‘Mary’ was going into way too much detail in the introduction

Mary would brace herself for these discussions as they felt a bit like an interrogation and to head off the questions, she included lots of background up front.

She referred to the history of the People Strategy and went into quite some detail about it.

However, in doing this she was also leaving the door open for questions as the first part of her paper wasn’t a complete summary, or perhaps described past events using new words which piqued the Board’s curiosity.

Her strategy was backfiring.

To avoid this, we suggest tightening your introduction to lead your audience directly where you want them to go (to the So What).

Here are four tips for doing that.

  1. Assume you must synthesise your context as tightly as you would synthesise your ‘so what’. Even for a lengthy paper, keep the context short, ideally to no more than 2-3 sentences in total.
  2. Stick to information that is or should be known to the audience.
  3. Ensure the trigger articulates clearly and simply why you are communicating with this audience about the topic described in the context at this point in time.
  4. Focus on material that introduces the topic as it stands right now. This will prime your audience on the topic that you want to discuss and open the door for the trigger rather than more questions.

Here’s a sanitised before and after to illustrate.

The ‘Before’ included far too much detail which gave the audience a chance to derail the conversation and not get to the so what

[CONTEXT] Talented people needed to deliver our ambition, has and been remains a business goal. We have focused on talent over the last 3 years – approach largely individualistic and limited by poor capability frames

Our new operating model provides an opportunity for us to differentiate ourselves in the talent market – move talent to max value work, no other retailer using this new operating approach, and we can become known for development

We have started implementing a 3-year strategy to drive enterprise talent & capability and that has changed the talent profile through recruitment. Development will be the focus in the following years

We will track impact and manage talent-based risk

[TRIGGER] We have a Talent strategy that we believe will deliver on our goal to win through talent.

[QUESTION] What is your strategy?

The ‘After’ is much tighter all round and led to a tighter discussion around Mary's agenda

[CONTEXT] Moving to the new operating model provides us with an opportunity to differentiate ourselves in the talent market. This enables us to build on the foundations established over the past three years to develop a winning talent strategy.

[TRIGGER] We have a new leading edge Talent strategy that will enable us to capture the full opportunity that our new business model offers us.

[QUESTION] What is your strategy?

I hope that helps and look forward to checking in with you again next week.

Kind regards,
Davina

PS – We have working sessions this week. Don't forget to register!